Niculescu, M. D., Lupu, D. S., and Craciunescu, C. N. (2011)Maternal alpha-linolenic acid availability during gestation and lactation alters the postnatal hippocampal development in the mouse offspring. Int J Dev Neurosci29, 795-802
The availability of ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids is essential for perinatal brain development. While the roles of docosahexaenoic acid (the most abundant ω-3 species) were extensively described, less is known about the role of α-linolenic acid (ALA), which is the initial molecular species undergoing elongation and desaturation within the ω-3 pathways. This study describes the association between maternal ALA availability during gestation and lactation, and alterations in hippocampal development (dentate gyrus) in the mouse male offspring, at the end of lactation (postnatal day 19, P19). Postnatal ALA supplementation increased cell proliferation (36% more proliferating cells compared to a control group) and early neuronal differentiation, while postnatal ALA deficiency increased cellular apoptosis within the dentate gyrus of suckling pups (61% more apoptotic cells compared to a control group). However, maternal ALA deficiency during gestation prevented the increased neurogenesis induced by postnatal supplementation. Fatty acid analysis revealed that ALA supplementation increased the concentration of the ω-3 species in the maternal liver and serum, but not in the brain of the offspring, excepting for ALA itself. Interestingly, ALA supplementation also increased the concentration of dihomo γ-linolenic acid (a ω-6 species) in the P19 brains, but not in maternal livers or serum. In conclusion, postnatal ALA supplementation enhances neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of the offspring at postnatal day 19, but its beneficial effects are offset by maternal ALA deficiency during gestation. These results suggest that ALA is required in both fetal and postnatal stages of brain development.
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